Greg Biffle was on top of the NASCAR world after race No. 26 at Richmond International Speedway.
Similar to a good portion of the 2012 Sprint Cup regular season, the Vancouver, Wash., native sat atop the Sprint Cup standings as the first 26 events concluded.
But just like every year since 2004, the beginning of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' 10-race playoff leveled the playing field.
And, after a subpar outing in the first Chase for the Sprint Cup event at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, Biffle now finds himself with some ground to make up at eighth in the standings and 19 points out of the lead.
"We didn't get our Chase off the way we thought we would with the finish at Chicago," Biffle told the media during Tuesday's NASCAR teleconference. "It was an unfortunate race for us. We were really looking forward to Chicago. We felt like we were going to be [good] there, and we just ended up off a little bit all weekend."
Biffle admitted that Sunday's race caught he and his team "off-guard" a bit, meaning they weren't prepared to take on a slick track like the Chicagoland Speedway, where he earned a hard-fought 13th-place finish.
His mediocre effort on an intermediate track—the type of track that's been Biffle's bread-and-butter throughout his career—seems a cause for concern. As do his last four races, where Biffle has just one top 10 finish.
Not so fast, says the Biff.
"We know that when it comes to a slick, lower-grip type of racetrack, we have struggled a little bit as of late, and the last four races have been those type of racetracks," Biffle said. "We see Dover as the only [Chase] track really that lines up like these last four."
Asked if his performance over the next nine races would show improvement over his last four, Biffle emphatically responded, "Oh, yeah, absolutely."
Among the last nine races of the season, the circuit hits seven tracks where Biffle is a past winner, including this weekend's race at New Hampshire that has the eighth-place man very excited.
"We took a brand new car to Richmond earlier this year [and] we are taking that car to Loudon this weekend," Biffle says. "We feel like we are going to be definitely a factor, certainly a top-five car this weekend at Loudon."
But even though Biffle's good days throughout this Chase could push him back into serious title contention, Driver No. 16 admits those days will not mark the most important races in the Chase.
"We all know that minimizing the bad days, that's the most important thing," Biffle said. "Those are the days that you have to persevere on, and I think that's going to determine this Chase."
And persevere they did at Chicagoland, where Biffle and his crew took a day where they were less than competitive and turned it into a top 15 finish.
"We kind of minimized the damage of having a bad day," Biffle said. "We have put that race behind us. It's not that bad of a race."
All quotes were obtained first-hand by the writer via NASCAR teleconference unless otherwise noted.